Solution Saturday: Harassing Naughty Employees

Dear Dan,

I know you are a coach and proponent for encouraging people to receive help from mentors and coaches.

What would you suggest to employees who have been misled by leadership-type coaches…grossly…for the sake of bolstering personal reputations and gain of those coaches?

What if “coaching” becomes a platform for harassing “naughty” employees for the company that hired them? It’s hard to believe that some leaders who say they want to help employees become successful would actually try to trip them up, steal ideas, use required-reading blogs to whip them, etc.

Do you have any warnings for employees or suggestions on how to stay on guard from those types of predators?

Thank you for your ideas,


Dear Burned,

It’s heartbreaking to read your experience. Ethical behavior is the foundation of successful coaching.

I’m responding to your question with the assumption that you have little control over being coached and no power to choose your coach.

First approach:

The first thing that comes to mind is take your concerns to your boss and/or Human Resources. Unethical coaches harm organizations, squander talent, and give coaching a bad name.

  1. Document your experiences.
  2. Explain the impact.
  3. Commit to your personal development.
  4. Ask for a different coach.

Number three on the above list is essential. Your development is your responsibility. Present yourself as fully dedicated to your own development and the best interest of your organization. Don’t come off as attacking others.

Never let a bad coach – or anyone else – be the reason you sabotage your own growth and development.

Second approach:

The second thing that comes to mind is make the best of this situation. Suppose you don’t want to go to the boss or HR.

Could you give feedback to your coach? I’m pretty sure if you went to your boss, he/she would ask, “What have you told your coach?”

Tell your coach that the required reading feels like being whipped, for example. I realize trust is low. Perhaps a very simple test run to see how the feedback works would be helpful.

5 suggestions:

  1. Assume the best. What shifts in your thinking if you believe your coach is trying to be helpful?
  2. Get the most from required reading. There must be something useful.
  3. Practice transparency. Shout any ideas shared with coaches from the rooftops. Secrets strengthen manipulators.
  4. Document your experience. Be sure to record what you did to improve the situation, along with any offenses of your coach.
  5. Minimize defensive thinking. Pursue what you want for yourself and your organization. Being on your heels doesn’t take you where you want to go.

A final thought.

Coaching as a tool for dealing with “naughty” employees is a destructive attitude, especially if that’s all there is to coaching.

I often work with leaders who aspire to get to the next level. They’re motivated and successful. But in some organizations, you don’t dare say you have a coach because coaching is a means of last resort. You’re out the door if you don’t improve.

The “naughty” employee approach short-circuits coaching. It’s better to view coaching as a means of maximizing the potential of motivated people.

Which approach makes more sense to you?

What suggestions might you have for Burned?